There's no denying the impact that Jae Crowder had on last year's Celtics team. When he came over from Dallas in the Rajon Rondo deal back in December, no one thought much of the acquisition. But his effort and leadership, particularly on the defensive end of the floor, were an essential part of the C's improbable turnaround that began in February.
Crowder's passion for the game and his will to win have made him an instant fan favorite in Boston and he never hesitates to express his appreciation for the support that fans have shown him.
At this point there is no question that this is where he wants to be, although it took him a little while to really embrace the organization. In the two months in between Boston's acquisition of Crowder and that period in February when the Celtics' transformed from a losing team to a playoff team, he had his doubts.
In an article from ESPN's Chris Forsberg, Crowder reflects on a conversation that he had with Coach Brad Stevens after the C's lost seven of their first eight games after acquiring him:
"I went crazy," admitted Crowder. "I lost my mind here. At practice, I pulled [coach] Brad [Stevens] to the side and asked him, ‘What are we trying to do here? Are we tanking?' And Brad was like, ‘No, no, you don’t have to worry about tanking. I want to win games. We aren’t winning right now, but I want to win games.’"
This is just another example of why Jae Crowder is the type of guy that every team needs. His only concern is winning. Fortunately, his wishes would soon be granted as the Celtics won 24 of their last 36 games and managed to sneak into the playoffs, thanks in no small part to the winning attitude that he brought to the locker room every single day:
"I don’t like losing, man," said Crowder. "I play this game to win. I never in my life played to lose. I don’t know what that feels like. I don’t play like that. I play to win. I felt like that the locker room here was kind of sulking right when I got here. It was sad to be in a professional locker room like that. I didn’t like it. I just wanted to come in each and every day and put my work in and hopefully make guys feed off my energy and take it from there.
Crowder also talks about the hashtag "#ITALLSTARTEDINTHEDRIVEWAY" which he includes in a lot of his tweets. It's clear that the street ball, "no blood, no foul" type of play that often takes place in driveway basketball is what built his toughness and he credits his "underdog mentality" to the fact that he was often taking on older competition:
"No fouls called. I’m the youngest guy on the court and barely winning sometimes. But when I do, I let everybody know."
As was the case last year, the fire that we see from Jae Crowder every time he takes the floor is certainly going to be a driving force for this team's success. But this guy is much more than just an emotional leader. Every day he is working on becoming an elite, lock down defender, and his offensive game has plenty of upside as well.
As the article states, Crowder ranked first among the 130 players who defended at least 40 plays in the preseason, allowing only 0.477 points per play. Offensively he was the definition of efficient, scoring 50 points while taking only 26 shots.
When you have a 25-year-old athletic specimen who is as driven as this guy is, it's inevitable that his game will continue to improve.
Follow Jack Bardsley on Twitter @BostonsBigFour
Photo Credit: Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff via Boston Globe Jack Bardsley 10/28/2015 04:51:00 PM Tweet Edit